JUST IN: Tinubu, Shettima, other VIPs to pay tollgate fees at airports – Keyamo

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President Bola Tinubu, Vice President Kashim Shettima, and other top government officials will henceforth pay access fees or the e-tag at all federal airports nationwide.

Minister of Aviation and Aerospace Management, Festus Keyamo, disclosed this to journalists on Tuesday, May 14, at the end of a two-day meeting of the Federal Executive Council (FEC), presided over by President Tinubu at the State House, Abuja.

The Minister said the FEC approved that all exemptions for VIPs, with regards to payment for access into airports in the country, be cancelled when his ministry presented a memorandum detailing the financial losses to these exemptions.

According to him, the federal government had been losing 82% of the N10 billion revenue that ought to be accruing from airports’ tollgates but lamented that because of the exemption, which the VIPs have explored to escape paying what is due to the government, the larger part of the actual projected revenue has been lost.

He however said the Council had mandated the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) to send out a service-wide circular, informing of the cancellation of the exemption, adding that his ministry would follow up on that circular with another memorandum.

“No more exemption. When we came to the office, we met a tradition on the ground where at the end of the year, all manners of VIPs would approach us for what they call complimentary e-tags or complimentary stickers. Whereby you see them coming into our airports nationwide. They don’t pay the access fees.

“They don’t pay for parking, they don’t pay for essential services at airports, and they are VIPs. And I told myself on my team, I said not under my watch. It will not happen. If this tradition has been existing for years, I will not allow it to happen. Because it is inconceivable that in our country it is the VIPs that don’t pay for services but it is the poor men that pay for services.

“The VIPs were supposed to have money to pay for services, but they compel poor men to pay for services and I said no. So I got my team together, I said we need the backing of the Council to compel everybody. In fact, guess what? Our memo says with the exception of the President and the Vice President and the President overruled me and said he and the Vice President would pay, he said everybody.

“Let me give you the shocking statistics. The negative figure that we get at the end of the day from the complimentary e-tags is 82% in the negative. In other words, where we are supposed to have a 100% contract the e-costs from these e-tags that we print, it is only 18% that we now end up selling. That is how bad it is, 18% and 82% of these e-tags are given out free of charge to VIPs. So imagine the loss in my sector and I ask myself which other sector will I go to that they give me anything free?

“I’ll give another example. In one of the access gates, based on the count of the barrier going up and down, we are supposed to be making N250 or N260 million from that get every month. That gate, because of exemptions, the return is less than N100 million every month. That also of course, breeds corruption too because now you cannot track, you cannot have the audit trail of those free tags that you now give to our people to give out to people.

“So it was approved that the SGF should send a system-wide circular to everybody. We are going to also write to everybody, be it in the judiciary, the legislature, the executive, or the military high command, they can buy for their personnel yearly and don’t have to pay for every time you pass. Buy the yearly tags for all your officers, you have the money to pay us, so that we can improve your services at the airport”, he said.

The Minister also disclosed that the Council approved a memorandum that sought the procurement of aircraft recovery equipment, which is designed to respond to occasions of the breakdown of aircraft from the runways like it was recently experienced in Lagos.

According to Keyamo, the Ministry received the approval for the procurement of the equipment at the cost of N4.2 billion, expected to be completed within twelve months.

“We got approval for that as part of ICAO’s requirements in the sum of N4.2 billion and a fraction, inclusive of VAT, with a completion period of 12 months to supply and also to train the handlers of these equipment to handle them and remove disabled aircraft from our runways”, he said.

Meanwhile, the federal government has explained that the recent suspension of the controversial Cybersecurity Levy was done for the policy to be reviewed.

Minister of Information and National Orientation, Muhammed Idris, who clarified at the post-FEC briefing said “The cybersecurity levy has been suspended. It is undergoing review. It had been put on hold for now.

Recall that the Central Bank of Nigeria had issued a directive to all banks and financial institutions, mandating the implementation of a cybersecurity levy on all electronic banking transactions.

This new levy, set at 0.5% of the value of every electronic transaction, was introduced in response to the escalating concerns over cyber threats and follows the guidelines of the recently enacted Cybercrime (Prohibition, Prevention, etc.) (Amendment) Act 2024.

According to the CBN, this measure was crucial for enhancing the security framework of financial operations across the country.

However, the levy drew criticism from businesses and the public over fears it could worsen the already dire economic situation.

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